Somme American Cemetery

Historical Background

The United States was described as a “melting pot” in the early 1900s because of its assimilation of a vast number of immigrants. When the United States committed itself to the European war, it was General John J. Pershing’s challenge to build an Army from 130,000 to four million. Regular troops, national guardsmen, reservists, drafted enlistees, and volunteers all made up the new fighting force. Divisions were often recruited from specific regions of the United States, giving regiments and divisions geographical affiliations. Many volunteers and draftees were newly naturalized citizens. 

The cemetery is named after the region in France in which several American Expeditionary Forces units fought from May 1918 until the Armistice on November 11, 1918.

The Somme American Cemetery allows visitors to appreciate the makeup of the United States Army in World War I. The names on the headstones at the Somme American Cemetery reflect the substantial diversity of America in 1918. The various ranks and military job specialties engraved on headstones in the cemetery allow visitors to better appreciate tasks unique to the United States’ World War I Army, as well as the organization of the American Expeditionary Forces at all levels.

Many Americans believed it was their moral imperative to face tyranny even before the United States entered the war. Buried in this region of France are many Americans who volunteered with the British and French forces to combat the aggression of the Central Powers.

World War I fostered long-term international friendships and strategic alliances for the United States. The American Expeditionary Forces units fought under the command of the British, and alongside the British, Canadian, and Australian in this region. The coalitions built during World War I continue to the present day.


Architect George Howe designed this adaptation of a Romanesque chapel. The American Battle Monuments Commission requested that he included windows to add light within based on a Roman-Christian tradition. Sculpted panels of World War One era weapons along with two eagles enhance the exterior. You enter the chapel through a bronze door. Above the altar is a large cross-shaped window providing illumination to the interior. Soft light enters from small purple-toned inlaid glass side windows that feature the insignias of many divisions of the American Expeditionary Forces. The interior walls of white stone list the names of 333 American soldiers missing in action in operations north of Paris. American flags are placed above the door and on both sides of the altar, with flags of some of the combat branches that took part in the battle. The chapel and cemetery were dedicated May 30, 1937.


Somme American Cemetery Chapel by CyArk on Sketchfab


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